Hi guys, and happy Saturday! Is it so windy as well? But no matter what weather you’re having today, I am delighted to share an extract from Merryn Allingham’s new novel “The Buttonmaker’s Daughter”. The book sounds exciting and I cant wait to start reading it! Enjoy!
She waited for the next outburst, but instead he seemed deep in thought, prodding so savagely at the lawn with the briar stick he carried that Alice feared the gardeners would be called on to lay new turf.
‘There are times,’ he said heavily, ‘when I wish we had stayed in Birmingham. Elizabeth would have had purpose there. The women were . . . different. More serious. The wives and daughters of the men I knew – they would have been her friends. They would have kept her busy, interested in the world. Given her something beyond dabbing at canvases in an attic. And they would have found her the right husband.’
This final shot went over Alice’s head. In her mind, she was back in Birmingham and hating it. Fifteen years she’d lived there, and for the entire time she had felt adrift. The friends, the contacts, Joshua spoke of were industrialists, factory owners like himself. They inhabited a world wholly foreign to her and had wives who were just as foreign. Women who gave gossipy and uncomfortable tea parties or, worse, were terrifyingly intellectual. Joshua had taunted her that she was too great a lady, too conscious of her family name and thought herself above their company. It wasn’t so but she could never have told him the truth. She was scared of the women, thoroughly scared. Her meagre education, the narrow vision with which she’d been raised, the privileged life she’d led, were poor preparation for holding her own with females who thought nothing of conducting literary soirées in their homes or debating the latest philosophy. They were wives who joined the Women’s Slavery Society or attended public meetings on women’s suffrage and urged her to accompany them. They made her feel stupid and pointless.
And Joshua had not helped. He’d been incapable of understanding her plight and treated her with a growing abruptness. Even when she’d given birth after years of disappointment, she had been made to feel a failure. A girl rather than the boy that was expected. In time, of course, things had changed. Joshua had grown to adore his daughter and to dismiss the son when he arrived, as hardly worth his attention. His partiality was understandable. She thought Elizabeth too headstrong for her own good, but the girl’s spirit and energy were a true echo of her father’s.
When her husband had finally gained ownership of his Sussex acres, she’d felt blessed. For weeks, she had sailed aloft on a tumultuous wave of relief. Until she’d returned. Then came the realisation that she’d find no more congenial company in the countryside of her birth. Her brother had made sure that neither Joshua nor she would find a place in county society. The great and the good had decided for themselves that Joshua was unbearably vulgar, but her brother had made sure with a whisper here and a nudge there that he was seen as dishonest too. A counterfeit. She had buckled beneath the assault, but Joshua hadn’t. He was a strong man and he’d needed his strength. He’d used it to shrug off the mantle of social pariah and create instead the most magnificent gardens in Sussex. They were his triumphal fanfare, a declaration that he had arrived.
The Buttonmaker’s Daughter by Merryn Allingham is published on 12th January (HQ, £7.99) If you would like to keep in touch with Merryn, sign up for her newsletter at http://www.merrynallingham.com
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